The idea of core competencies in business is an old one, but a good one. The thinking is that companies often do best when they stick with what they know, what they do well. This might explain why eBay magazine didn't last too long, for example, or why Sara Lee spun off Hanesbrands apparel, choosing to focus more on foods, which can be more profitable than textiles.

Companies can be creative and can focus on their core strengths or consumer associations when being charitable, too. Here are a few examples:

  • 3M (NYSE:MMM), the innovator famous for Post-its, among other things, raised awareness of its support for breast cancer research in 2004 by constructing a 70-foot pink ribbon made from 75,000 Post-it notes in New York's Times Square. By involving one of its key products, Post-its, in the event, 3M boosted awareness of the product and its role as manufacturer -- while generating good feelings toward the company.
  • Similarly, in 2000, Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) chose to fight hunger by doing more than just making a contribution to a hunger-relief outfit. Instead, it invited consumers to visit its website and click on a button, after which the company would donate a can of soup to the hungry.
  • More creatively, some bookstores have raised money for charities by enlisting volunteers to wrap books as gifts for customers who make a small contribution.

We at The Motley Fool have scratched our heads in the past, wondering how we might best support charitable endeavors. We came up with an idea a full decade ago, and it's been very successful: our annual Foolanthropy charity drive. What's cool about it is that we don't just pick some charities and send them money. Instead, we ask you, our readers, to nominate the organizations you'd like to see us support, and we select a few from that list. Then all of us -- Fool readers, Fool employees, and the company itself -- raise money together for the causes. We believe we began the world's first and largest cooperative online charity drive.

This is, if I dare to make this analogy, a little like BerkshireHathaway's (NYSE:BRKa) (NYSE:BRKb) wonderful charity program of yore. Company chiefs Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger reasoned logically that since the company really belongs to the shareholders, each one should have a proportionate say in where charitable dollars were sent. So each holder of class A shares got to designate which charities received some funds. It was very democratic and fair, but it was ultimately ended due to protests surrounding some of the charities receiving money. Sigh.

But back to Foolanthropy, which has not been curtailed in any fashion and which may well keep growing for decades to come, I urge you to click on over and learn more about it. We'd love to introduce you to five impressive organizations, and we'd be thrilled if you'd join us in supporting one or more of them.

3M and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. eBay is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Sara Lee was once an Income Investor selection. You can try any of our newsletters free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, eBay, and 3M. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.